Richard Ayoade directs his first feature film, Submarine, an adaption of a 2008 coming-of-age novel about a Welsh teenager.
Richard Ayoade should be familiar to US fans of British television for his roles in hits like The Mighty Boosh and The IT Crowd. After doing time behind the camera for those shows as well as a few comedic shorts, he’s directed his first feature film, an adaptation of Joe Dunthorne’s 2008 coming-of-age novel about Oliver, a disaffected Welsh teenager. With his tendency toward literary pretentions and oddball affectations, Oliver feels something like a neurotic and aspirationally erudite Holden Caulfield, and the stress of navigating his first relationship while his parents’ marriage seems to be unraveling drives the story.
Ayoade’s film has its own affectations, which run to the quirky and whimsical, with a strong dark streak running through it all. They make Submarine play out a little like Wes Anderson’s Rushmore crossed with Harold & Maude. That’s an aesthetic that’s bound to rub some people the wrong way, as Ayoade pushes those aspects to the limit, with fantasy super 8 movies that play in Oliver’s overactive imagination, and comically twee homages to classic films like The 400 Blows. The director’s fast pace and clear joy in building this story out of a stew of influences generally overrides any distancing effects of his technique, making the film a sweet and appealing exercise in teenage nostalgia.
Opens Friday at Bethesda Row.
From Here to Obscurity
Local comedy troupe the Langley Punks were a local mainstay during the 1970s and eventually became part of a comedy collective called the Travesty Group. They spent years creating comedic shorts and recordings with the likes of a young Sam Raimi and garnering high praise from like minded bizarro-comedy personalities like Dr. Demento. This year represents the 30th anniversary of one of their best-loved shorts, Hyattsville Holiday, and to celebrate, they’re holding a one-time screening of that film, along with a collection of some of the best of their other work through the years. Everyone from the Travesty Group that could be gathered together for the event will be there, including all four of the original Langley Punks.
Friday at 7:30 PM at the AFI Silver.
Polar Film Festival
Given the heat wave outside, sitting in an air conditioned theater all day and watching films about the Antarctic sounds pretty appealing. National Geographic, along with the British and Norwegian embassies, has put together just such an escape from the heat this weekend. Things start off with the popular, Academy Award-winning 2005 penguin documentary March of the Penguins. Having enticed everyone in with a familiar crowd pleaser right off the bat, they move on to slightly more esoteric territory with The Great White Silence, a 1924 British silent documentary about Robert Falcon Scott’s failed attempt to reach the South Pole, which contains a great deal of actual footage from that expedition. The final two films focus on Roald Amundsen, the Norwegian explorer who actually did manage to become the first person to reach the pole, in 1911. The first, Roald Amundsen’s South Pole Expedition, is a recently assembled short silent film of restored footage from that trip, and that’s followed by Frozen Heart, a 1999 biographical documentary about Amundsen himself.
Friday at 8:30 PM at the Hillwood Estate. Grounds open at 6:30 ($15 suggested donation).
Louder Than a Bomb
Every year in Chicago, students from dozens of high schools compete in the nation’s largest poetry slam competition, which ends in a huge slam before a large audience at the Vic Theatre. Directors Greg Jacobs and Jon Siskel documented the 2008 event, the year after a Cinderella-story upset won the title for a troubled inner-city school in 2007. Focusing on individuals from that school and three others, the filmmakers showcase the immense talents of these teens, the varied inspirations for those talents from the students’ personal lives, and the atmosphere of collaboration that is part of the creative process of the competition.
Director Jon Siskel will be present for Q&As at Friday and Saturday night's screenings, and West End will also host live poetry slams on both nights, with the DC Youth Slam Poetry Team on Friday, and Beltway Poetry Slam Saturday.